Samsung Galaxy A71 5G review: Don’t call it a budget phone

Samsung Galaxy A71 5G software

Samsung Galaxy A71 5G

“The Samsung Galaxy A71 5G is a solid midrange phone, despite the burgeoning value of cheaper devices.”
  • Modern design
  • Good performance for the price
  • Beautiful display
  • Long-lasting battery life
  • Camera is only fine
  • No wireless charging
MSRP $600.00

Cheap phones are having a moment right now. While there have always been decent options in the sub-$400 range, 2020 seems to be the year of the cheap phone, thanks in part to the ultrapowerful iPhone SE and the new Google Pixel 4a. But older series of phones, like the Samsung Galaxy A-series, have been around for years and have huge fan bases. In fact, thanks to Samsung’s strong brand name and carrier relationships, the A-Series, which includes the new $600 Galaxy A71 5G, is among the bestselling phone lines out there.

My review unit is the U.S. carrier 5G model, which has 5G support and a Qualcomm processor (not to be confused with the various international models).

As the most expensive device in the A series, the Galaxy A71 5G has more intense competition — which means that it has to offer some serious oomph in order to be worth buying. Does it truly compete? I put the Samsung Galaxy A71 5G to the test to find out.

Design

The Galaxy A series usually offers a solid design, and while at times the build quality isn’t quite on the same level as more expensive phones, the look is still there. That remains true here. The Samsung Galaxy A71 5G offers a nice and big edge-to-edge display with a hole-punch cutout for the front-facing camera, as well as a rectangular camera bump on the back that’s reminiscent of the Galaxy S20.

The bezels around the display are razor thin, and the phone looks very modern as a result. The bottom bezel is slightly larger than the others, but it’s barely noticeable, and doesn’t really make a difference in day-to-day use. Interestingly enough, the hole-punch cutout at the top of the display is smaller than that on the Galaxy A51, despite it seemingly offering the same camera hardware.

Thanks to the plastic back, the phones feels very lightweight.

Around the edges of the phone, you’ll get a USB-C port, a volume rocker, and a power switch. And there’s a headphone jack, which is a nice touch these days.

The phone also feels great in the hand, and is very lightweight. Part of that likely has to do with the fact that the back of the phone is plastic instead of glass, but it still feels pretty high-quality and doesn’t seem to scratch or ding easily.

A modern design is one thing that sets some midrange phones apart from the competition. The iPhone SE, for example, has a bigger focus on performance than design, even though it still looks great. Then there’s the Pixel 4a, which also offers an edge-to-edge design, but comes in at only $350.

Display

The display on the Galaxy A71 5G sits in at 6.7 inches, which is a touch bigger than the Galaxy A51, which comes in at 6.5 inches. That, however, is really where the differences end — you’ll still get the same AMOLED panel with a 1080p resolution and a 60Hz refresh rate.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The display actually looks great, and while a higher resolution might have been nice, it would be hard to expect a flagship-level display. That’s especially true considering the fact that it’s still an AMOLED panel, which makes for deep black levels and vibrant colors. It can also get easily bright enough to use outdoors in even direct sunlight. In a few years, we should expect to see 1440p resolutions on midrange phones, but for now, this is a great display for a phone in this price range.

A higher refresh rate may have been appreciated, but isn’t expected in this price range. With a higher refresh rate, software feels smoother and animations are more natural. Samsung’s higher-end phones, like the Galaxy S20, offer refresh rates of up to 120Hz, and we’re hoping those higher rates will make their way to midrange phones at some point over the next few years.

Under the display, there’s a fingerprint sensor, which seems to work quite well. It worked much faster and more accurately than the Galaxy A51’s fingerprint sensor. It occasionally failed, but not any more than other fingerprint sensors I’ve used.

Performance

Under the hood, the Galaxy A71 5G offers a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 processor, coupled with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The result is a speedy-feeling phone that’s reactive and fast enough for most multitasking and even most mobile gaming. That’s in direct contrast with the Galaxy A51, which generally seemed to freeze up and stutter under anything more than light use, due to its Exynos 9611 processor.

Of course, it’s not necessarily the best-performing phone in its price range, especially in a world with the flagship-level iPhone SE. The iPhone SE offers Apple’s A13 Bionic chip — the same processor found in the iPhone 11 Pro. The best comparison in the Android world would be the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, which is only really found on flagship phones, like the Galaxy S20.

The Galaxy A71 5G will outperform the vast majority of the competition. The phone will beat the Snapdragon 730-equipped Pixel 4a in raw performance, but in day-to-day use, the Pixel 4a may end up feeling a little smoother and more responsive because of its stripped back software. We’ll have to wait and see until we can get our hands on a Pixel 4a.

The Galaxy A71 5G performs well in mobile gaming too. The phone seemed to be able to handle games like Call of Duty: Mobile and Asphalt 9 with ease, and while it didn’t load as fast as flagship phones, actual gaming felt fluid and smooth.

The solid performance translates in benchmarks as well. Here are the benchmark results we achieved with the phone.

  • AnTuTu: 324,648
  • GeekBench 5: 617 single-core, 1,916 multi-core

These results are excellent for a phone in this price range. It doesn’t really come close to the iPhone SE, which hits over 480,000 on AnTuTu, but with the Snapdragon 765, it should beat almost everything else that’s cheaper. Of course, if you can stretch your budget an extra $50 to $100, you could get the OnePlus 8 — which offers a flagship-level Snapdragon 865, and will perform even better than the Galaxy A71.

This device also offers 5G support, making it one of the cheapest phones to do so. It supports both mmWave and sub-6GHz 5G, so you should be able to get ultrafast speeds wherever your carrier offers them. This won’t be one of the cheapest 5G phones for long — manufacturers are likely to put 5G modems in more and more of their phones this year. The Google Pixel 4a 5G is set to be released sometime in the fall, and will cost only $500.

If you want 5G on a budget now, this may be the way to get it — but wait a few months and you’re likely to have many more options.

Software

The Samsung Galaxy A71 5G comes with Samsung’s One UI operating system. Samsung’s software skin has progressed quite a bit over the years, improving usability and cutting out bloatware. Still, Samsung could still do a whole lot better in offering less third-party software in general. The T-Mobile variant Galaxy A71 5G comes with a number of T-Mobile apps, a hefty selection of Microsoft apps that you may not want or need, Spotify, McAfee, and more. Some of these apps can be removed — others, you’re stuck with.

One UI in general looks and feels relatively different compared to stock Android, thanks to its larger square-shaped apps, more colorful interface, and huge selection of customizations. You can choose between the classic three-button navigation system or Google’s new Android gesture controls. One UI also has a few unique features such as the built-in screen recorder, integration with Windows computers if you want to set it up, and more.

Customization is another strength of Samsung’s software. One UI offers a ton of customization options, and many people love the ability to tweak pretty much everything related to the home screen, theme, and so on. Others, however, will simply feel overwhelmed by all the options, and would be better served by OnePlus’ OxygenOS, the stock Android offered on a Pixel phone, or even Apple’s iOS.

As is often the case with Samsung phones, the Galaxy A71 5G probably won’t get superfast updates. We do expect the phone to get at least a year of major updates, so hopefully it’ll make it to Android 11, but Samsung hasn’t confirmed anything, and you shouldn’t buy the phone based on the hopes of it getting a lot of updates. If you want to stay up-to-date with Android, buy a Pixel.

Camera quality

The Samsung Galaxy A71 5G offers a quad-lens camera, with a 64-megapixel main sensor, 12-megapixel ultrawide sensor, 5-megapixel macro sensor, and 5-megapixel depth sensor. It’s a solid selection of cameras, and while I personally would have preferred a telephoto lens over a macro lens, in general, the Galaxy A71 5G is able to deliver great photos.

Of course, photo quality depends on the situation, and a phone isn’t necessarily as consistent as more expensive devices. In good lighting, photos are colorful and bright, with a decent amount of dynamic range and solid detail. In low light, the photos are relatively noisy and lack detail, which is usually the case with midrange phones. There is a built-in Night Mode, which gets rid of some of the noise, but photos still aren’t up to the same level as devices like the iPhone 11 Pro and Google Pixel 4 XL.

The elephant in the room here is the new Google Pixel 4a. Only a few early reviews of the Pixel 4a are out, but most suggest that the device offers a camera on par with the standard Pixel 4. That’s a flagship-level camera in a $350 phone. Don’t expect that on the Galaxy A71 5G, despite the fact that the phone is much closer to a flagship in price.

The macro lens is more or less useless on the phone, given the fact that it has a fixed focal length, and as such is extremely difficult to focus on a subject. Even if you do get a good focus, there’s not a whole lot of detail and colors are a little muted.

Despite the issues, you’ll find that photos are more than passable in most situations.

Battery life

The Samsung Galaxy A71 5G was easily able to last a full day of even relatively heavy use, and we don’t anticipate anyone having any real issues with the battery life itself. The battery in the Galaxy A71 5G sits in at 4,500mAh, and by the end of a heavy day of usage, I still ended with around 30% to 40% left.

When you do eventually run out of juice, you’ll be able to charge the device relatively quickly too. The phone supports 25-watt fast charging, which will get the device 50% of its battery back in only 30 minutes. That’s pretty impressive.

The only feature really missing is wireless charging, though it’s not necessarily unacceptable that a phone in this price range doesn’t have it. We’re hoping to see wireless charging come to cheaper phones over the next few years.

Price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy A71 5G sits in between truly midrange phones and flagships, coming in at $650 unlocked. You can get it for less depending on your carrier — for example, T-Mobile is offering the phone for $600. That’s actually not a bad price considering what you get — but there’s definitely some competition in the price range. The device is available from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and directly from the Samsung website.

Our take

With solid performance, a modern design, and 5G support, the Samsung Galaxy A71 is a great phone for the price. The fact that it has 5G support probably isn’t a reason alone to buy the phone, but it is an added bonus. The proliferation of new flagship-level budget phones, though, dampers some of the excitement around its value.

Are there any alternatives?

If you can spend an extra $50 to $100, you’ll get the OnePlus 8 — which offers better performance and an arguably more modern design.

Or, if you’re willing to make the switch, the iPhone SE performs better than any Android device, and costs just $400.

Then there’s the Pixel 4a, which probably won’t quite reach the same performance as the Galaxy A71 5G, but will offer a much better camera, a modern design, and more — all for $300 less than this phone.

How long should it last?

The Samsung Galaxy A71 5G doesn’t really have an IP rating, so you’ll want to keep it away from the pool or bath if at all possible. The phone should last a good two years before needing to be replaced. The plastic back is much less likely to break compared to a glass back.

The Galaxy A71 5G offers a limited one-year warranty, but it really only covers manufacturer defects.

Should you buy it?

Yes, but only if you want a solid Samsung phone at $650 or under. Otherwise, you should consider spending more for the OnePlus 8, or save almost half of that money and get the Pixel 4a.

Editors' Recommendations